Map shows which countries are contributing the most to climate change

Illustration for article titled Map shows which countries are contributing the most to climate change

This map, created by New Scientist, shows the size of the world's countries based on how much their emissions are contributing to climate change and global warming. You can see that some countries appear larger than they are, and some are smaller, based on emissions.

On average, the planet is slowly warming because of carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions. But that isn't the only change we'll encounter as these emissions change all kinds of climates, creating new ultra-cold and ultra-dry conditions in some areas, and causing superstorms in others. And now you can see which countries are contributing to a future of weather chaos.

Over at New Scientist, Kate Ravilious writes:

Damon Matthews of Concordia University in Montreal, Canada, and his colleagues calculated national contributions to warming by weighting each type of emission according to the atmospheric lifetime of the temperature change it causes. Using historical data, they included carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels and changes in land use – such as deforestation. They also accounted for methane, nitrous oxide and sulphate aerosols. These together account for 0.7 °C of the world's 0.74 °C warming between 1906 and 2005.

The US is the clear leader, responsible for 0.15 °C, or 22 per cent of the 0.7 °C warming. China accounts for 9 per cent, Russia for 8 per cent, Brazil and India 7 per cent each, and Germany and the UK for 5 per cent each.


Why the focus on national regions, instead of per capita emissions? Here's what the researchers say in their paper:

There is considerable interest in identifying national contributions to global warming as a way of allocating historical responsibility for observed climate change. This task is made difficult by uncertainty associated with national estimates of historical emissions, as well as by difficulty in estimating the climate response to emissions of gases with widely varying atmospheric lifetimes. Here, we present a new estimate of national contributions to observed climate warming, including CO2emissions from fossil fuels and land-use change, as well as methane, nitrous oxide and sulfate aerosol emissions While some countries' warming contributions are reasonably well defined by fossil fuel CO2 emissions, many countries have dominant contributions from land-use CO2 and non-CO2 greenhouse gas emissions, emphasizing the importance of both deforestation and agriculture as components of a country's contribution to climate warming. Furthermore, because of their short atmospheric lifetime, recent sulfate aerosol emissions have a large impact on a country's current climate contribution We show also that there are vast disparities in both total and per-capita climate contributions among countries, and that across most developed countries, per-capita contributions are not currently consistent with attempts to restrict global temperature change to less than 2 °C above pre-industrial temperatures.

You can read the full study at Environmental Research Letters

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Annalee Newitz

Germany, what's up? I thought you guys had a strong Green party?